Here are a few notes from the Metro Board of Directors meeting Thursday. There were no giant items in front of the Board relative to particular projects, but nonetheless some interesting discussion broke out. To wit:
•In his remarks as Board Chair, Michael D. Antonovich said he wants more information from Metro about the frequency with which elevators and escalators at Metro stations are out of service, how much time it takes to repair them and how information is passed along to disabled passengers — incluing those who are vision and hearing impaired — about how to get around escalators and elevators not working. His remarks were prompted by the tragic death last week of a woman in a wheelchair who fell down an escalator at a Red Line station.
•The Metro Board approved a financial agreement with AEG about improvements to be made to the Pico Station for the Blue Line and Expo Line if Farmers Field is built in downtown Los Angeles. Under the terms of the agreement, AEG will pay for an additional train platform on the southbound tracks, as well as for personnel needed for crowd control at the Pico Station — a short walk from L.A. Live, Staples Center and the proposed stadium site.
It’s estimated that about 15,000 of the 70,000 attending football games would take transit of some kind, with roughly half on buses and the other half on trains. Metro staff said they are most concerned about the hour after the game when 4,000 to 5,000 train riders need to be accommodated.
Metro staff said that language is being added that if ridership goes beyond what is expected, Metro and AEG would discuss further improvements, including possibly shuttles to other Metro stations. Metro Board Chair Mike Antonovich abstained from the vote, saying that he believes putting a football stadium next to the chronically congested 110-10 interchange was a mistake.
•An update on the possibility of accelerating the Metro Airport Connector project — prompted by a motion by Supervisor Don Knabe — sparked a lengthy and sometimes testy conversation among the Board.
First, the background: Knabe orginally asked whether the Airport Connector could be accelerated so that it’s completed by 2018. Metro staff responded that 2023 was likely the earliest date if Measure J passes. Why? Because Metro can’t begin its draft environmental study of the project until Los Angeles World Airports, a city agency, completes a specific plan amendment that would include transportation improvements.
It needs to be understood that the airport project has increasingly been a subject of conversation for the Board, perhaps because prominent transportation officials (read: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and House Transportation Chair John Mica, to name two) keep bringing it up. As Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas put it, not having the Green Line hooked up to the airport is “a huge embarassment.”
In response to the staff report on his earlier motion, Knabe submitted a motion to the Board on Thursday asking for a full report by Metro staff on what it would take to complete the project by 2020. But Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, in particular, objected to a part of the motion that he said would reopen the agency’s Long Range Transportation Plan and re-order the projects.
Knabe offered to take that provision out of the motion and it was approved on a 7 to 5 vote, meaning that Metro staff will be tasked with producing a report on all the steps necessary to finish the project by 2020.
•The Board was also informed that it was Metro CEO Art Leahy’s intent to renew a contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to patrol the Metro system for fiscal year 2013-14, beginning July 1 of next year.
Board Member Gloria Molina made some pointed comments, saying she believes that Metro should have its own transit police because of the customer-driven nature of Metro’s business. She also said that she believed that the Sheriff’s Deputies were at times too “heavy-handed” dealing with customers, resulting in legal settlements. In summary, she said she believes a balance has to be struck between legitimate law enforcement and helping customers.
LASD Commander Patrick Jordan said that one of the issues facing deputies is the number of people with mental illness — and how best to de-escalate confrontations with those people and added that deputies have been getting additional training. Molina asked for a report from the LASD and Metro staff in January on how best to deal with some of these issues.